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I Will Come Again
"Caught Up Together
Paul, speaking of the appearing
of the Lord Jesus Christ, called it "that blessed hope."
Titus 2:13 What a blessed hop indeed when finally united with
Christ, our beloved bridegroom. soon the warfare will be ended,
the toiling and suffering over. Soon we will experience that joy
of seeing him face to face and sharing the presence of his
fellowship throughout eternity. Long have Christians waited for
the second coming of Christ; long have they fervently prayed for
the time they would be united with him whom they have grown to
love so much. Inspiring thoughts of this glorious event have been
the basis of many hymns. A phrase evolving from this joyous
expectation is the "rapture." It is well to bear in mind
that the word "rapture" is not found in the Bible.
Consequently, we must determine if the popular rapture concept is
actually Scriptural. A consideration of all the scriptures on the
resurrection of the saints reveals that when Christ returns, the
"dead in Christ" are raised; then, during the period
between his return and the full establishment of his Kingdom, the
living saints are gathered to him individually as they die over a
period of time.
What Say the Scriptures
1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17,
describes the raising of the saints at Christ's second presence.
Note the sequence of time between the resurrection of the
"dead in Christ" and the living saints being caught up.
For the Lord himself shall
descend from heaven…and the dead in Christ shall
rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be
caught up together with them…to meet the Lord…
This scripture plainly states
that Christ first resurrects the saints who are "dead, having
fallen asleep in death since his first advent. "Then"
(afterwards, Greek epeita, "thereafter")
the living saints are "caught up" to meet the Lord. The
contrast of "first" and "then" denotes a
difference of time. Paul doesn't tell us here how long the time
difference is, but other scriptures do. Note another important
point. Evidently the phrase "caught up together
with them" does not denote the time, but rather the place
of their being together, for in 1 Thessalonians 5:10, the same
Greek word hama is again translated
"together" and clearly denotes place. "That whether
we wake or sleep, we should live together with
him." Thus, nothing in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17, indicates
that the "dead in Christ" and the living church are
taken at the same time.
1 Corinthians 15:51, 52, also
describes the two parts of the resurrection of the saints.
"We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be
changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at [during] the
last trump." The word "at" is a poor translation.
Rotherham correctly translates it "during." The phrase
"the last trump" implies previous trumpets. The only
other trumpets in the New Testament are a series of seven trumpets
found in Revelation. Some mistakenly believe that the trumpet of 1
Corinthians 15:51 sounds during a "secret rapture" to be
followed by a "seven-year tribulation" during which,
among other events, the seven trumpets of Revelation literally
sound. However, since the trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:51 is called
the last trumpet, it must correspond with the last of the seven
trumpets of Revelation. This would mean the previous six trumpets
have already sounded. Evidently, the sounding of these six
trumpets is not literal, since such a literal sounding would have
aroused worldwide attention. Therefore, we can reasonably
conclude, that the six trumpets are symbolic. And if the first six
are symbolic, then the seventh trumpet is also symbolic.
Scriptural proof that the symbolic meaning of the trumpets are a
proclamation of truth, will be dealt with at a later point. It is
during this period of the sounding of the last trump that the
resurrection of the church will occur. The "day of the
Lord" is also the "day of the trumpet." Zeph.
1:15,16 This symbolic trumpet, proclamation of truth, sounds
during the whole "day of the Lord."
"We Shall Not All Sleep,
But We Shall All Be Changed"
Some will have slept in death
before their resurrection at Christ's return. However, Christians
living during Christ's presence will be changed in the twinkling
of an eye without sleeping in death. Each, at the instant of their
dying, will be raised to immortality.
Revelation 14:13 gives us the
time element of the resurrection of the saints who are alive at
Christ's return: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord
from henceforth:…that they may rest from their labors; and their
works do follow them." All the saints, even
those living today, are, in this text, considered
"Ye are dead, and your life
is hid with Christ in God." (Col. 3:3) These "dead"
do die. a point of time is indicated by the word
"henceforth." The point of time is Christ's return.
Preceding verses describe events during Christ's presence; then
Revelation 14:13 speaks of something that happens from
"henceforth," that is, from the return of Christ onward.
Blessed are the saints who die from that point on because, though
they rest from their labors in the flesh, they will not have to
wait in the sleep of death. Their "works" follow
immediately with them as they are raised to meet the Lord. Thus,
we see that these scriptures teach the resurrection of the
sleeping saints at this return; and then, an individual
resurrection of the remaining living saints as each dies and
become changed "in the twinkling of an eye."
The Problem of a Partial
A set of verses in our Lord's
Great Prophecy is frequently used to prove the instantaneous
gathering of the living saints to Christ in the air. It will be
seen however, that they have nothing to do with the living saints
being taken to heaven.
I tell you, in that night
there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and
the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together;
the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in
the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Luke
This is a classic example of the
danger of a partial quotation. Upon the basis of this limited
citation, it might be reasoned that the ones that are taken are
caught up to heaven, but verse 37 rules out this possibility:
And they answered and said
unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the
body is, thither will the eagles (Gk. eagles or vultures) be
The curiosity of the disciples
was aroused by Jesus' statement that two people would be in
various situations and one would be taken. They specifically asked
where they would be taken. Notice that Jesus did not say they
would be caught up together with him at his return. His answer is
"wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered
together." Some feel the body here referred to is the body of
Jesus. However, Matthew 24:28 specifies that the body of which the
eagles are gathered is a dead body or carcass. The lesson of the
eagle in Job 39:30 corroborates this usage of a slain body.
Further, if the body is referring to the literal body of Jesus,
then eagles must also be literal and thus would render the passage
meaningless. Both the body and the eagles are symbolic. Jesus is
evidently basing his lesson on two characteristics of eagles found
in Job 39:27-30; the eagle's ability to see her prey (food) afar
off; and her willingness to travel a great distance to secure this
food—where the body (food) is, there the eagle will be. The
Scriptures compare faithful Christians to eagles in this respect.
they have the ability to see or discern spiritual food afar off
and they will travel great distances to secure it.
A Rich Feast
This lesson of Luke 17:34-36 is
beautiful. Remember, Luke 17 and Matthew 24 are accounts of our
Lord's Great Prophecy in which He gave signs of his parousia,
presence. The living church cannot be caught up at the moment of
Christ's return, for they will be here on earth discerning the
signs of Christ's presence. But their relationship to the returned
Lord is blessed and unique.
Chapters tow and three of
Revelation describe seven churches. Many Bible-believing
Christians hold to the concept that these represent seven stages
of the church down through the Christian Age. To the Philadelphia,
or sixth stage, the Lord said, "Behold I come quickly."
(Rev. 3:11) But, the Laodicean, or seventh stage of the church,
the Lord says, "I stand at the door, and knock: if any man
hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will
sup with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:20
So it is with the returned Lord.
The fulfilled signs of our Lord's Great Prophecy prove that we are
in the Laodicean or seventh stage of church history, the period
during which the Lord is present and some of the church remain
here on earth. We might refuse to hear his knock; that is, refuse
to understand the truth of his presence or even refuse to open the
door of our hearts to the returned Lord. Nevertheless, he is
present whether we accept it or not.
To those who do accept it, there
is a great spiritual feast. They sup together with their returned
Lord. This feast of truth that is to be the blessed portion of the
church on earth when the Lord returns is also brought out in Luke
Blessed are those servants,
whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say
unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down
to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall
come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find
them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the
good man of the house had known what hour the thief would come,
he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be
broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man
cometh at an hour when ye think not. Luke 12:37-40
The faithful church will be
watching for the Lord's return. When he returns, they will
recognize it and he will serve them with a special feast of truth.
This feast is not in heaven. It is enjoyed by watchful servants on
earth. These verses depict the blessed conditions of faithful
Christians who remain on earth for a period of time after our Lord
returns. This is one aspect of the two-fold lesson of the eagles
we are considering. When the Lord returns, the eagle class,
faithful Christians, will be gathered to this rich spiritual
feast. The second lesson is that the eagle can see food afar off
and will travel great distances to secure it. Revelation 18:1-5
reveals what is involved in this traveling.
And after these things I saw
another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the
earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a
strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and
is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul
spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all
nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication,
and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her,
and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the
abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from
heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not
partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For
her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her
iniquities. Revelation 18:1-5
Many believe the mighty angel of
verse one is our returned Lord. The Greek word aggelos,
here translated "angel," simply means
"messenger." Rev. 20:1-3 also used the word
"angel" or "messenger," when referring to the
returned Christ coming down from heaven and binding Satan. Malachi
3:1-3, a parallel passage to Revelation 18:1-5, speaks of our
returned Lord as the "messenger of the covenant."
Our returned Lord, the mighty
angel of Revelation 18:1, enlightens the earth with his glory.
(Other scriptures that show a great enlightenment of truth along
every line—scientific, humanitarian, philosophical, religious,
etc., which causes the earth to tremble. Psalms 97:1,4)
Revelation 18:2-4, reveals that
the returned Lord has a message against Babylon. Most agree that
Babylon is a false Christian system. Revelation 17:5 indicts both
a mother system of Babylon and daughter systems. Therefore,
Babylon represents a number of false Christian systems. Note the
difference between the fall of Babylon in Revelation 18:2-4 before
her plagues come, and the destruction of Babylon in Revelation
18:8 when the plagues come. Therefore, the Lord is present for a
period of time before the destruction of Babylon. Before his
return, the Lord tried to "heal" Babylon (Jer. 51:9),
but she refused to be "healed." At his return, he cast
her off from favor. Revelation 18:2-4 refers to Babylon's fall
from divine favor. Then in Revelation 18:4, our returned Lord has
a message for all true Christians in Babylon: "Come out of
her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye
receive not of her plagues."
This is the lesson the eagle.
The returned Lord has promised a great spiritual feast of truth,
yet most Christians are in Babylon when he returns. Just as the
eagle can see food far away and travels a great distance to secure
it, so faithful Christians will discern the lack of spiritual food
in Babylon and will leave. They must flee Babylon (Jer. 51:6) in
order to enjoy the spiritual feast from the returned Lord.
The confirmation of applying
revelation 18:1-5 to the beginning period of Christ's presence,
during which the living saints are gradually caught up to the
Lord, is found in Revelation 14. The time element and message of
Revelation 14:8 is exactly the same as Revelation 18:2.
And there followed another
angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city,
because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of
her fornication. Revelation 14:8
It is during the period of this
proclamation of the fall of Babylon from favor that we are given
our "henceforth" period of Revelation 14:13,
"Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from
henceforth." We have already seen that Revelation 14:13
proves the individual resurrection of the living church over a
period of time. The synchroniz- ing of the time element of
Revelation 18:1-5 and Revelation 14 is further proof that when our
Lord returns there is a gradual resurrection of the living church,
not instantaneous gathering to Christ.
The lesson of Luke 17:34-37 is
important to all Christians now living during our Lord's presence.
The eagles of verse 37 are symbolic of faithful Christians. The
bed, mill and field of verses 34 through 26 are also symbolic. The
represent different spiritual conditions in the nominal churches.
The ones in the mill, the field, and the bed who are taken
represent faithful Christians. When the Lord returns, He will call
his people out of Babylon. He will attract them as eagles are
attracted by food for which they have a keenness of vision and
appetite. The watching and worthy are taken, this is, they leave
Babylon, and the others are left to experience the plagues that
destroy Babylon. The food of "present truth" now
provided by our present Lord is having its intended effect of
gathering his saints by and to it. It is not the gathering by one
man or many men unto themselves or into a new denomination, but a
gathering unto Christ himself, the true and only Master and
A Further Proof
A further proof that the one in
the bed, the one in the mill and the one in the field (Luke
17:34-36) do not picture the living church caught up to heaven is
found in verses 30-33 of Luke 17.
Even thus shall it be in the
day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall
be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not
come down to take it away and he this is in the field, let him
likewise not return back. Remember Lot's wife. Whosoever shall
seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose
his life shall preserve it. Luke 17:30-33
If, as some feel, the living
Christians are taken, the rapture takes place instantaneously,
then those who are taken have no time to make a choice or do
anything else. This is contrary to verses 30 to 33. When the Son
of man is revealed, the one in the field has the choice of turning
back and the one upon the housetop can decide to go down into the
house to take his belongings. These verses harmonize with Luke
17:34-37, where, like the eagles, the one in the bed, the mill and
the field are gathered to a feast.
When the Lord returns and calls
his people out of Babylon (the nominal churches), those on the
housetops (Christians with a higher degree of spirituality) should
leave immediately without taking any Babylonish encumbrances with
them. And even when the flight from Babylon has begun, none should
turn back as did Lot's wife, verse 32.
Verse 33 further confirms that
these verses refer to a condition of separation here on earth.
Notice it is after one is taken that he still has the choice to
turn back. After the gathering begins, his course of action will
determine whether he loses or saves his life.
From the foregoing scriptures
discussed in this chapter, it become evident that the
instantaneous change and resurrection of both the living and dead
in Christ at the moment of his return, is not a Scriptural
concept. 1 Corinthians 15:50, 51 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17
reveal that all faithful Christians who dies before the second
advent will be raised to be together with their Lord at his
return. From that time onward, Revelation 14:13 reveals that
members of the living church on earth will be caught up
individually to their returned Lord as they complete their course
on earth. Many scriptures show that the returned Lord will reveal
himself in a very special way to faithful Christians on earth and
provide a rich feast of spiritual truth.